Little John, our Expedition Leader, had tried to prepare us for our Cook Islands visit…It is one of his favorite places and as we stepped on shore it was clear why. The small atoll, barely seven miles across, is a white sand, blue water, palm tree paradise. We have all heard of paradise described this way before, but the difference here were the wonderful people, 39 of them, living on the island. With such a small population, we pretty much met almost every inhabitant of this remote treasure. The kids crowded around us, and since they spoke English we could easily converse with them about their home.
The dance performance by the children was touching. Their parents and the mayor of Palmerston stood behind them while they swayed to the music and sang a very simple song. Afterwards the kids and their parents took us for a tour and we walked the impeccably clean sand "streets," and went by their church, mayor's house, and school. We also saw a bit of wildlife on the island—blue-footed boobies were being raised by a family and several young fluffy chicks sat watching us, keeping warm in the morning sun.
In the afternoon, after some spectacular drift snorkeling and diving in the reef surrounding Palmerston, some of us caught glimpses of a whale. We tried to snorkel with the whale but it didn’t seem in the mood to play and continued to dive up and down every seven minutes or so.
We returned to our lovely ship, the Clipper Odyssey, feeling like the Cook Islands were the beginning of paradise, and as we went to sleep I think we all had the children's song playing in our heads:
"Welcome to Palmerston, we know this is where you want to be... white sands beaches and blue oceans and swaying palm trees. The island boys playing the ukulele...."